Heartbeat


It's finally spring(ish) here, and I'm so excited that my next book, Heartbeat, will be out soon (June 12, but you can pre-order now!)



Heartbeat follows the life of a baby whale from birth, to song, to silence, to a new song of compassion and hope for a brighter future. It is a story about empathy, and about our relationship to the environment, and to each other.


It has just received a starred review from Booklist (which will come out in April) and a wonderful review from Kirkus!


To start off a few posts about the making of the book, I thought the best way to begin was with the post I did about my experience aboard the 38th Voyage of the Charles W. Morgan whaleship in 2014, a major source of inspiration for Heartbeat.
 
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Why should you be excited that a historic whaleship sailed into a marine sanctuary and saw whales?

It is a valid question, and one I have asked myself as I became increasingly excited and passionate about the trip. On July 10th I boarded the Charles W. Morgan, the last wooden whaleship in the world, as a part of the 38th Voyagers program with Mystic Seaport, funded partially by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. On July 11th we sailed into the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary on a mission of peace to the first whales seen off the deck of the Morgan in nearly 100 years. It is an event largely without precedence in our country's relationship to its troubled history with the environment. To use history as the literal vehicle for scientific education about the future is something to be excited about.

Sunset, moonrise, and glittering moonlight over the decks of the Morgan

We approached the Morgan, moored out past the harbor in Provincetown, in the glow of a radiant sunset. As we climbed aboard and began our orientation, I kept rubbernecking to the sunset behind us. After the orientation we had plenty of time to sit on deck, talk amongst the voyagers, and watch the nearly full moon glitter across the water through the rigging.

Captain Kip Files

The next morning, after breakfast, we awoke and began preparing for our sail. Captain Kip Files introduced us to the voyage as we prepared to hoist the anchor and head out towards Stellwagen.

Chief Mate Sam Sikkema, Second Mate Sean Bercaw, and Third Mate Rocky Hadler

Chief Mate Sam Sikkema, Second Mate Sean Bercaw, and Third Mate Rocky Hadler (whose birthday it was!) kept the ship and crew moving smoothly as the 38th voyagers wandered about, oohing and ahhing over the experience of being on board.


It took the combined teamwork of most of the crew and guests to haul the 1600 pounds of anchor aboard. With the ship liberated from her root, the tugboat pulled us out to sea.


The tiny figures of the deckhands were suspended 10 stories above us as they climbed aloft and began to release the sails.

  
As the sails began to descend, the entire landscape of the ship would change from one minute to the next. The sails became like canyons across the deck, funneling the wind up and propelling the ship forward on her own power.




As they unfurled the mainsail, it billowed down like a heavy stage curtain until it filled with wind and held taut.


In full sail, the masts soared over the deck like immense, luminous towers that the crew would rotate to follow and catch the wind. The ship moved forward towards the Sanctuary, with its crew of artists, educators, and researchers.

Anne DiMonti and Gary Wikfors

Myself and the other 38th voyagers scurried about, working on our various projects. The scientists began their observations and measurements. Anne DiMonti of the Audobon Society and Gary Wikfors, marine biologist and musician, were two that assisted in dropping a phytoplankton net over the side to examine the types of microscopic life that were living in the bay. On a voyage into a whale sanctuary, it's amazing to see the other side of the size spectrum of life in the same sea.

Beth Shultz

Beth Shultz, a literary scholar, professor, and collector of the art of Moby Dick, was on board absorbing the sights, sounds, and smells of a whaleship and creating poetry from the experience. Other voyagers used photography, video, and historic navigational tools to record their fleeting time aboard.


Then came the moment we had all been waiting for. With the tugboat gone, we were at full sail and entering the Marine Sanctuary. Suddenly, from up in the masts, the shout came out: "WHALE!"


And there, just over the starboard side of the ship, a minke whale's arched back crested the water and slithered back underneath. This was the first whale seen from the deck of the Morgan in almost 100 years. We watched her fade into the distance as we sailed by, her glistening fin surfacing every so often until she disappeared under the water.


As we sailed deeper into the sanctuary, the whaleboat was lowered over the side, in the same way it would have been during a whale chase.


In the distance, we began to see spouts, the shimmering exhalation of the whales.


Soon we were surrounded by humpback whales, surfacing, feeding, and spouting. The tiny whaleboat gingerly approached them, becoming dwarfed by the massive creatures.


With no malice on either side, the crew on the whaleboat watched as humpback whales surfaced, fluked, and fed just a little ways from their boat. How magical to be in the same place as a whaler from the Morgan, but with no task to do, no prey to kill, just time to sit and watch in awe.


The whales came closer to the Morgan, raising their elegant tails into the air and mightily slapping the surface of the water right next to the ship. It's hard not to think that the whales are aware that they are communicating with us. Whether or not they were trying to directly say something, their actions communicated with us nonetheless. They were not fleeing, they were not attacking, we were merely two species sharing the same speck of ocean for a time.


The crew and guests, meanwhile, buzzed about in a state of euphoria. Nearby, prominent marine biologist and explorer Sylvia Earle was interviewed about her thoughts on the Morgan's voyage into the Sanctuary. She spoke about how until recently, and in the time of the Morgan's whalers, it was always taken for granted that there would always be enough fish, enough whales, enough ocean. It is only a new change in perception that we realize that, small though we may be, we have an enormous impact on our environment and it cannot be taken for granted that it will always be there. This new awareness fills the sails of this 38th voyage and propels the Morgan forward on her new journey.

Gary Wikfors plays a German waldzither built during the same time period as the Morgan as we were towed back into port.

The Charles W. Morgan is an amazing confluence of what is important about history, and what is important about the future. Her history knits together the entire world, through her journeys and through the men who sailed aboard her. The cargo she brought back, spermaceti, oil, and baleen, served as the predecessors of the plastics industry and the industrial revolution. The light created from the oil and wax of sperm whales lit the world of the 19th century. The bodies of whales fed hungry people across the world after World War II as mechanized factory whaling took hold and decimated whale populations.


Today, our oceans are in an even more deplorable state as we harvest them beyond their breaking point and pollute them beyond all reason. But as perceptions of the natural world change, whales offer a symbolic embodiment of this change. These immense creatures that were once floating commodities, are now seen as one of the greatest ambassadors of the awe of the natural world.


The sailing of this ship is not just an event that is important to New England and its community that is so inextricably linked to whaling history, it is of nationwide and worldwide importance. To be able to resussitate a piece of history and use it as a catalyst for education and change is an amazing feat, and one that can act as an inspiration going forward. History and tradition do not need to be impediments to change and progress; they can be the wind that carries this change.



Through history, people can reaffirm their connections to their roots, while also becoming educated and invigorated about how that history connects to the changes that need to be made today. Provincetown, from which I sailed on the Morgan into the Stellwagen National Marine Sanctuary, used to be one of the busiest whaling ports in the world. Today, it is a huge center for whale conservation and related tourism. A large part of the town’s image today is based around the idea that protecting and learning about whales can be good business.



Imagine if communities across the world, entrenched in history and tradition, saw conservation as a viable way to preserve those histories.  Because of the Morgan’s new message, the history and tradition associated with whaling will be relevant for many more decades to come.


The Morgan sailing again does not mean our oceans are fixed. It does not mean our relationship with our oceans is fixed. The Morgan's voyage is not a victory lap, but it can be the starting pistol.

To see video and photos of the Morgan's voyages in Stellwagen, check out the links below:

From Whaling to Watching

For more of Evan Turk's travel illustration, check out the link below: 
Evan Turk Travel Illustration

Venice



I returned to Venice this year for research on an upcoming book (2019!), and it was just as beautiful as always! It's such a magical and improbable city.


Nothing exemplifies this more than the elegant gondole that slide down the narrow canals and under the dozens of little bridges. Developed as a means of transportation through the shallow lagoon, these flat-bottomed boats have been a symbol of Venice for centuries.


Like the world's most elegant traffic jam, the gondole emerge from the tiny side canals into the bustling Grand Canal, twisting and pivoting with ease.


It's fascinating to watch the boats turn at fantastic angles, and watch the shapes distort and change so quickly with the leaning of the gondolino.


On the Grand Canal, they glide past elegant palaces in a dream-like cityscape that appears nearly unchanged since the Renaissance.


You can imagine, with not too much extrapolation, how incredible it would have been to look out from one of these palaces, with intricate pierced windows and marble mosaic walls and floors, as dozens of gondole and other boats passed by, with none of the speedboats or ferries of today. (This view is from the elegantly restored palace The Ca D'oro.)


As they continue down the Grand Canal, the towering Rialto Bridge emerges from around a bend. Replacing an ancient wooden bridge, the immense stone structure, completed in 1591, bends at a surprising angle over the water below.


As the Canal winds through the rest of the city, it finally emerges into the Venetian lagoon, crowned by Piazza San Marco.


Surrounded by the elegant colonnades of the Doge's Palace and the Venetian library, there is ornate and impressive architecture on all sides. The entire city is made up of overlapping influences from Turkish and Muslim sources, Gothic, and Roman architecture.


The Campanile soars above the Doge's Palace. It's hard to believe that this tower was built twice! Originally in 1549, and again after its collapse in 1912.


The square is surrounded by the endless Procuratie Vecchie and watched over by the elegant clocktower.


But nowhere exhibits Venice's eclectic architecture better than the incredible Basilica San Marco. With its patchwork of marble, columns, and influences plundered from the Byzantine and Roman empires alike, it eschews simplicity in favor of way-too-muchness. Crowned with Gothic, Byzantine, and Roman arches with glittering gold mosaics and elegant stone relief, it's hard to believe that it was once even showier with it's arched peaks covered in gilding.


If you get tired of the overwhelming architecture, the throngs of tourists (and occasional Venetians) make it a wonderful place or people-watching.


But really, who could get tired of that architecture?


For more of Evan Turk's travel illustration, check out the link below: 

MUDDY is here!



MUDDY: The Story of Blues Legend Muddy Waters, written by Michael Mahin and illustrated by me, is finally out in stores! Check out the trailer above (with music by Michael!) and a few snippets of some wonderful reviews so far.


“Lyrically told with a lilting cadence by debut author Mahin. . . . Turk’s mixed-media illustrations leap off the page. . . . The soul of the blues sings out through the pages.”
School Library Journal

"This poetic celebration of Muddy Waters' musical truth is lifted still higher by Turk's extraordinary art.”

“Mahin’s text is engaging, rhythmic, soulful, and written to reflect the blues that influenced Muddy Waters. . . . Turk’s expressionistic mixed-media illustrations, many of them double-page spreads, aptly convey the emotions associated with Muddy Waters’s music.”
The Horn Book
 “Like Waters’s music after landing in the Windy City, Turk’s artwork is electric—wild strokes of marker and oil pastel vibrate with energy. And Mahin’s equally vivid writing will almost certainly send readers after Waters’s catalogue.”
 
* "The words and pictures here mix exuberance with melancholy. Mahin’s words have a beat all their own, capturing the  lows and highs with poetic verve. Turk’s watercolor, ink, and collage artwork fills pages, exploding with a neon intensity— the equivalent of a dynamic guitar riff . . . Read the book, then get kids the music.”

 * “Turk’s mixed-media and collage artwork roils with waves of darkness and explosive color, even as it models compositional control, and Muddy is always defined with an electric hue that keeps him in sharp focus. . . .  Mahin’s lyricism and rolling cadence make the text a readaloud delight.”

"All along the way through the book, beside those sweet and longing words of the author, are Evan Turk’s amazing illustrations that take your breath away...one of the most extraordinary picture books we have seen this year. Muddy is a wonderful introduction to the life of a legend as well as an inspirational and evocative experience of art so well matched to the man and his blues that you can almost hear the music playing."

So if you haven't already, go pick up your copy at your local independent bookstore or at one of the following links!
And if you do love it, don't forget to leave a review!


Muddy: Behind the Art


I'm so excited about the upcoming release of the next book I worked on, Muddy: The Story of Blues Legend Muddy Waters, written by Michael Mahin! It won't be available until September 5, but here's a sneak preview and a little "behind the scenes" about the creation of the art for the book.

Research drawing from Clarksdale, Mississippi

With every new book comes a new research process! You can read more about the research for this book in two blog posts I wrote last year about my trips to the Mississippi Delta, where Muddy was born, and Chicago, where Muddy created his signature sound.


Research drawing from Chicago
 
Another part of my research is always to look at artwork to help create a visual style and language that is specific to the topic and the story. Whenever I do school visits (more info here), I like to talk to kids about this step. I hope that it will inspire them to take a look at artists and art they may not have known before.


For this project, I was very excited to get to take a deeper look at some of my favorite artists, including Ben Shahn, Matisse, Picasso, and particularly Jacob Lawrence, Romare Bearden, and William H. Johnson.



I also looked at quilts by the Gee's Bend Quiltmakers of Alabama, a group of African American women who have been creating unique, varied, and innovative quilts for decades and generations. Many artists of the Harlem Renaissance (including Lawrence, Bearden, and Johnson) looked to the African American quilt-making tradition and African art for study and inspiration, as well as contemporary European art movements.


The incredible composition and rhythm of their quilts inspired the design for the artwork in Muddy. If you look at the small color thumbnail pagination I made while planning the book (below), you can see the influence of the blocks of color of the Gee's Bend artists.

Color pagination of thumbnails for Muddy


I wanted the illustrations to show the journey of Muddy and his music from his roots in Mississippi, the electric explosion in Chicago, and his synthesis of the two. I showed this in a few ways:


One was in the newspaper collage. In sharecropper cabins, like the one Muddy grew up in in Clarksdale, Mississippi, they only had newspaper to wallpaper their walls. So I collaged newspapers from the local Clarksdale Daily Register from 1918 on the walls.

In progress collage

You can see what it looked like here before I painted on top of them. Here the headlines are mostly about small town things like the cost of cotton or stories about World War I.


When Muddy moves to Chicago, he is surrounded by the headlines of the Chicago Defender, a legendary black newspaper. Here the headlines are about African American triumph and struggle, and civil rights issues of the day. And once Muddy becomes famous, he finds himself among the headlines of African American heroes in the Chicago Defender.

Preliminary sketches for Muddy

I also used color and a style shift to signify Muddy's journey.

Final art scenes from Muddy in Mississippi

In Mississippi, Muddy is surrounded by warm, rich colors: the yellow, red, and brown of the earth and heat; the deep indigo of the Mississippi River; the yellowy green of crops; the black and white of the cotton fields; and the vibrant purple of his grandmother's dresses.

Final art scenes from Muddy in Chicago

But when he arrives in Chicago, he is surrounded by the clashing neon colors of the city. The green is no longer earthy, but slick and electric. The blue is not deep and powerful, but bright, cool, and modern. The bright red halo of Muddy's country roots makes him stand out among the city slickers.

But once Muddy begins to let his true self out in his music, everything begins to come together. There is the electricity and intensity of the city, but also the richness, and depth of the Mississippi River, the cotton fields, and the memory of his grandmother. Everything pieced together like a quilt.


 The illustrations themselves were pieced together like a quilt as well.


I drew out the composition, and then cut out each of the shapes to make stencils. Then I filled in the shapes thickly with oil pastel on top of a watercolor/gouache background. 


Then details and patterns were created by adding more oil pastel, or scraping it away with a palette knife to make textures and different effects.

Muddy learning the bottleneck slide from his hero, Son House

The whole progression of art throughout the book was to show how Muddy grew and changed with his music, but also how he always stayed true to himself.

 
Muddy: The Story of Blues Legend Muddy Waters will be released on September 5, 2017.
More information and pre-order links here:


100 Views of the Hudson River Valley



It's been a while since my last post, but I've been busy drawing! Since moving up to the Hudson River Valley, I've been somewhat compulsively making pastel paintings of our new surroundings.


It began with a few small thumbnails, and then grew, day by day from there.



It's amazing what living surrounded by nature allows you to notice.


And on the river, the changes happen minute by minute.

 


Sometimes it's hard to stop drawing because by the time one drawing is finished, there's another one waiting outside! This is a small selection of the pastel paintings over the past few months.




There's a freedom that comes with being able to observe the same general scene over and over. It allows for abstraction, naturalism, and exaggeration to come and go.


I'm looking forward to seeing where this new inspiration takes me.


And now that spring is finally here, everything changes once again!



To see more, follow me on Instagram: @evanturkart

"We see our movements in intersection!"



This Saturday I attended the LGBTQ Solidarity Rally at the Stonewall Inn in the West Village with a few friends to draw and show support. The event was originally organized in response to a pending executive order from the new White House administration that was said to dismantle anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people across the country. Trump ended up not signing this EO so the Rally morphed into a solidarity rally for all disenfranchised groups amidst the new Trump administration. People were not just going to sit back because the President decided *one* time not to illegally infringe upon a minority's rights.



This, I think was an even more powerful show of strength. People came together, not because they personally were under attack (although this one order not being signed should not be taken as an "all clear" for LGBTQ folks under any circumstances), but in support of those that are. The LGBTQ community knows what its like to be under attack.



I was heartened to see that, more than any other Pride event, rally, or march I've seen from the LGBTQ community, this one embraced the diversity of the community. Often, the gay movement tends to center on wealthy, white men. But there are gay Muslims, queer immigrants, trans Latina/o/x, queer black women, and all different combinations of identities that, because we are all threatened, have the opportunity to intersect.


The Muslim community and the LGBTQ community would seem to be, pardon the term, strange bedfellows. Trump himself has tried to co-opt the LGBTQ community by saying his exclusionary anti-Muslim policies will make gays safer in response to the Orlando PULSE shooting this summer. But I was so proud to see that this community would not be turned away from fellow Americans, and those striving to become Americans, in a time of need. Fear will not divide us. I was again heartened to hear speakers from various Muslim and immigrant community centers and organizations come to speak in front of Stonewall, a symbol of the LGBTQ rights movement.


The speeches began with Louis, an immigration lawyer, who was working to protect a Syrian refugee and green card-holder of 10 years who became separated from her family during the travel ban. He was once a refugee himself, from Ecuador, where he fled anti-gay persecution. He was a living embodiment of the intersections of all of our communities and how we are in this fight together.


We also heard from Oliver, a Nigerian refugee who fled because his position as a gay rights activist in Nigeria became unsafe. He spoke of how now was the time for him to roll up his sleeves and fight for freedom again. He implored the crowd to not just preach to the choir, but to speak to those who support Trump's policies. We heard from many supportive politicians, including the only openly gay member of the NY State Senate, Brad Hoylman. He is also Jewish, and found swastikas drawn on his apartment building after the election in November.



Ishalaa Ortega, the first of several trans speakers of color received resounding applause as she described herself as Mexican, Transgender, Refugee, and American and that "WE ARE NOT GOING ANYWHERE!". Corey Johnson, gay New York City Council member and an organizer of the event, spoke passionately about our need to push ourselves to keep fighting and to not become complacent.


Several speakers referenced the black and Latina trans pioneers of the LGBT movement in NYC, Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, and their immense bravery. Others referenced the ACT UP movement during the AIDS crisis and its slogan "SILENCE = DEATH", stating "WE WILL NOT BE SILENT!"



Each speaker gave their own personal story of why they were there. There was a gay man who was also Syrian, Lebanese, and Mexican: a melting pot of Trump's targets. Khalid Latif, of the NYU Islamic Center echoed the refrain that "An attack on any of us is an attack on all of us." Olympia Perez of the Audre Lorde Project, a trans woman who identified herself as Afro-Latinx, Dominican, Brazillian, Puerto Rican, and South Asian eloquently said "I cannot divide the pieces of me." And these two ideas became the common thread between all the various speakers. Whether black, gay, trans, Latinx, Native American, Asian, queer, white, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, atheist, rich, or poor, we cannot separate the pieces of ourselves and we cannot separate these pieces of our nation.

We are Americans because of our intersections, not in spite of them, and that is what will make our resistance powerful.

#artistsfordemocracy



The last of 2016!


It's almost 2017 and this year has been quite a crazy one! Chris and I recently moved up to the Hudson Valley, so it's been a great period of adjustment getting used to the new house. With not quite as much time to draw, and no scanner hooked up until now, I decided to condense the last few months into one big finale for 2016!


This timeline also chronicles our slow descent into winter...These first drawings are from a lovely day of drawing with Audrey Hawkins back in September.



For the next couple months, each warm day felt like the last warm day we would ever have, so everyone, including me, was out trying to take advantage of the sunshine.



The city always feels so full on these warm days.


I loved this grouping of 2 mostly naked young people sunbathing next to a nun, all enjoying the park.


It still felt like summer until the sun went behind the buildings and everyone started putting their coats on over their sleeveless shirts.


A couple weeks later, as fall had begun to set in, Audrey, Chris and I had another nice day drawing out in Central Park.


The colors were beautiful, but the day not quite as luxurious as it had already started getting dark depressingly early.


Up in Croton-on-Hudson, I decided to grab a few hours on a warm day, in between renovating, to draw the new house before it got too cold. A huge and exciting project!


 In the Hudson Valley, summer was fading, but the fall leaves were just getting started.


It was so magical getting to see the leaves change and fall over the weeks, and watching how the light and colors changed.


Our friend and fellow artist Julia Sverchuk came up to visit and we went out to Fishkill Farm to enjoy a not-quite-so-warm fall day.




It was chilly, but people were still out and about, stretching their legs before the looming hibernation.


Chris and I went out for a brisk day up north drawing at Staatsburg State Historic Site, where we got married last June. The wind got a little intense on the river, so we made it a short day.


November brought the harrowing election (you can read more about my thoughts here) and less time drawing out in the cold.

And finally winter came with our first snow in the new house! The whole neighborhood looked like a Christmas card.


So now the year is almost over, and we have a strange new 2017 to anticipate. 2016 was definitely a year of change, but I am still hopeful for the new year.


Best wishes to all of you for the new year! See you in 2017!

Stronger Together


Trying to process everything with the election...decided to do a little drawing while thinking. I drew an enormous oak tree in our back yard that has lost most of its leaves. The oak is the National Tree of the United States. It is a symbol of strength, endurance, longevity, and patience. 

The results of this election are appalling. The rhetoric and ridiculous pandering to hate has made a large segment of our population (although not the majority) free to indulge their most hateful fears and thoughts. The media has been hideous in their exploitation of this hate and bitter divide to produce ratings. It has been ugly. And it will continue to be ugly. 

I thought about this as I made the drawing of the oak tree, because often in drawing, you go into it hoping for something beautiful. But when the drawing reveals that it won't be what you want, it is up to you to make something beautiful out of something ugly. It does not always work, but you are always left understanding more than when you began.


I mourn Hillary Clinton's loss, and our loss, not as the loss of the lesser of two evils, but as uncommon brilliance, grace, and dedication being stomped under the boot of ignorance, fear, misogyny, racism, and importantly, opportunism. Whether or not Trump really believes his hateful rhetoric will come to light in the coming months, but the damage done by it is already growing. 


For gay people like myself, the LGBT community, women, Muslim Americans, African Americans, Latino Americans, immigrant Americans, the hate is a very real daily fear, not just an abstract notion.

For those that are happy about the election results, please keep this in mind as you go forward. We are your fellow citizens. I have to hope that what Clinton said in her campaign is true: That we really are stronger together. This means all of America, not just the ones we agree with.


I don't know if anything beautiful will come out of this ugliness, but I hope that we understand more about ourselves as a country after the next 4 years. Let us hope that we can be strong, endure, and be patient.

Behind the Scenes: Be The Change: A Grandfather Gandhi Story


I am so excited to announce the release of the companion book to Grandfather Gandhi, Be The Change: A Grandfather Gandhi Story. I was so thrilled to go back into this world and illustrate another beautiful lesson, this time about how our actions have repercussions and our power to change things for the better. Arun, the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, lived with his grandfather for 2 years in adolescence, and these two books have been "crystallizations" of lessons he learned during that time.


My first step for a new project is always drawing people, so I went to the South Asian part of my neighborhood, Jackson Heights, to draw people and observe their body language.



It's always exciting for me to be able to try and transport myself to another place and time for a project, and nowhere is better for that than the many different neighborhoods of New York City.


I had a fun time chatting with this boy and his sisters from Bangladesh, who reminded me of Arun and his sister Ela in the book.

Since I was working in a similar style to the first book, I wanted to find a way to introduce new symbols and visual elements that tell this particular story.


Much of the book focuses on Arun's confusion regarding his grandfather's lesson that "waste is a violent action." This confusion comes into the illustrations in the form of the swelling black monsoon clouds that begin to dominate the pages. As his grandfather begins to illustrate the lesson, the monsoon clouds burst.


For the teaching scenes in the center of the book, I used a surreal, swirling background and color palette to emphasize Arun's dawning understanding.

Images from Garden and Cosmos: The Royal Paintings of Jodhpur

With the flooding of the monsoon, this sequence in the book was inspired by Indian miniature paintings depicting the infinite cosmic ocean.


As Arun begins to comprehend the lesson, the colors begin to return to normal. And as Arun and his grandfather return to the ashram after it has been renewed with the monsoon rains, the bright colors return. The whole book follows this arc of color, which you can see in these thumbnail sketches I used to plot out the color palette.

Preparatory thumbnail paintings/collages

Another aspect from the first book that I wanted to continue and build upon was the idea of thread. In the first book, the thread became an example of raw cotton being turned into something useful, in the same way that anger can be turned into useful energy.


In this book, I expanded upon that idea by using the thread more and more as the book progresses, embroidered into the illustrations, as a way of showing how that channeled, useful energy begins to permeate everything around you.

Kantha Quilts (Images from University of Nebraska, LACMA, and Honolulu Museum of Art)

Inspired by the Kantha embroidered quilts of Bengal, I machine embroidered the pages with intricate patterns. Sewing the paper like cloth, the images become more and more embroidered as the book progresses.


Once you realize that your actions affect everything around you, you can see that we, like patterns in a quilt, are all pieces stitched together in the same design.

Be The Change: A Grandfather Gandhi Story is available wherever books are sold! It is a beautiful story, and I am very honored to be a part of it. Please check it out at your local independent bookstore, or use one of the links below.

Italy: Venice

 

Venice! From the minute we stepped onto the water taxi at the Venice airport, it felt like we were wandering through a fairytale. It is a city so beautiful and improbable that it feels like it could have only been designed by artists.


Every view, archway, bridge, window, and pattern, is worthy of a painting, and becomes even moreso as the evening light begins to hit. Once I sat down to draw, I found it hard to focus on the reality of one view. The whole city felt more like a montage, with layers upon layers of beauty.


We decided to indulge in the romance of the city and stopped to have a cocktail in St. Mark's square at sunset, while a string quartet played behind us.



The whole city begins to feel like Venetian glass, where everything is reduced to layers of color, light, and pattern. As I was pondering the extravagant beauty of the scene, a seagull dropped a half-eaten pesto sandwich into my drawing bag. Ahh romance! Nice to be reminded that this place actually exits in reality.


People complain that Venice is touristy, but if anywhere deserves to have millions from all over the world come to visit, it's here.


And nothing captures the romance of Venice more than the gondolas. The tourist trade is a far cry from the days when the dramatically shaped boats were the main method of transportation. But the elegant sweep of black as it glides across the water is still a miraculous sight.




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This week central Italy experienced a devastating earthquake. If you appreciate these drawings and the beauty of Italy, please consider donating to help the relief effort:
Italian Red Cross
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This post is part of a series of travel illustration from a three week tour of Italy. For more of Evan Turk's travel illustration, check out the link below: 

DisneyWorld with Dalvero Academy!


I just got back from another great workshop in DisneyWorld with Dalvero Academy and instructors Veronica Lawlor and Margaret Hurst. It was 5 days of drawing, experimenting, and working all day on-location in the Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, and EPCOT. Can't get enough!

Below are a few drawings and thumbnails:


The Victoria Crowned Pigeon in Animal Kingdom 


 People around the Magic Kingdom


EPCOT China


EPCOT Morocco


Harambe Village in Animal Kingdom


EPCOT Italy's Flag Throwers


Eating lunch in Animal Kingdom

New York Classical Theatre: The Winter's Tale


I recently went to see the New York Classical Theatre's production of Shakespeare's "The Winter's Tale" in Battery Park in Lower Manhattan with my good friend Julia Sverchuk, who is an associate artist for the Theatre and does brilliant drawings of all of their productions. (See her beautiful drawings for A Midsummer Night's Dream here).

I had never seen The Winter's Tale before, but it was a fun and silly soap opera that I really enjoyed. The story begins with two kings who are childhood friends. King Leontes of Sicilia tries to get his friend, Polixenes of Bohemia, to stay longer, but is unable to convince him. When Leontes' wife, Hermione, is easily able to convince him to stay, Leontes begins to suspect that they are having an affair.


His suspicion and jealousy balloons and he orders Camillo to have Polixenes killed, despite his protestations.


Camillo instead warns Polixenes and the two escape together to Bohemia.


Leontes discovers their escape and is furious. He accuses his wife of the affair and that the child she carries is Polixenes', not his own, and imprisons her.


Hermione gives birth to a baby girl, and her friend Paulina, tries to convince Leontes to free Hermione, hoping the sight of his daughter will soften him against her. But he is not convinced, and instead orders Paulina's husband to exile the baby and abandon it somewhere.


Hermione pleads with Leontes, proclaiming her innocence, but he cannot be convinced.


Hermione faints upon hearing that their son has wasted away because of the stress of these accusations. Paulina then lets out a cry offstage and comes back to report that Hermione has died as well. Leontes laments his decisions and resolves to atone for his crimes.


Meanwhile, Antigonus goes to abandon the baby in Bohemia, naming her Perdita. He leaves her in a basket with trinkets suggesting her noble heritage. He is then eaten by a bear! Two shepherds then take the baby to raise her.


The character of "Time" is played by a bard, who announces that now sixteen years have passed.


We find out that Polixenes' son, the Prince Florizel, has fallen in love with a shepherdess, also named Perdita (!!).


Polixenes and Camillo conspire to stop the Prince's wedding to Perdita, but with Camillo's help, they flee to Sicilia in disguise.

"Time" switches his clothes with Prince Florizel, and posing as a nobleman hears how the shepherds are going to prove that Perdita is of noble birth by showing Polixenes the royal trinkets she was abandoned with in the basket.


Everyone ends up going to Sicilia, and after everyone's true identities are revealed, everyone is friends again and all is well.


In even more exiting news, Hermione has apparently been pretending to be a statue of herself for 16 years, but is actually still alive! So, that worked out well! She also forgives Leontes, I guess. And now everyone is reunited and happy. Except for Paulina's husband, who was still eaten by a bear. But she gets together with Camillo in the end! Hooray!

It's an absurd story, but it was so wonderfully brought to life by the actors and the production of the New York Classical Theater. It's so beautiful seeing these plays staged against some of NY's most beautiful backdrops. The expressive actors always make it so satisfying to draw! Definitely go check out this production, on through August 7 at Battery Park, and from August 9-14 in Brooklyn Bridge Park, Dumbo. 

More information below:

Italy: Cinque Terre


After Florence, we traveled to Italy's western Ligurian coast to see the famed Cinque Terre villages, a series of five impossibly quaint villages dotting the rocky coastline. We stayed outside the industrial hub of the area, La Spezia, overlooking the Golfo dei Poeti (Gulf of Poets), where poets and artists (including Lord Byron!) have come for centuries to absorb the beauty. Our first night, we went to Porto Venere, an honorary "sixth village" of the Cinque Terre, at the tip of a peninsula. Less secluded than the "Cinque", but also less touristed, it was wonderful to spend time in this charming and beautiful town.


It felt more like a beach town for Italian tourists, rather than the international hotspot that the Cinque Terre have become. It was fun watching the Italian families gather, nap, chat, and relax under the shady, seaside trees.


A nearby wedding brought glamorously dressed guests, mixing with the older locals who sat and watched the sea and the visitors pass by.


We enjoyed a perfect sunset over the marina as boats bobbed in the tide and seagulls soared overhead.


The next day, it was on to Manarola, one of the Cinque Terre villages. It's not hard to see why the towns are so heavily touristed, as you see the gorgeous, brightly-colored houses tumble down impossibly steep streets into the lapping waves of a grotto at the seas edge.


Up the inclines, the town dissolves into sweeping hills of vineyards that surround the city.


The bustling town during the day is a far cry from its quaint, isolated former days as crowds of foreign tourists pour in every hour on the trains.


Although Manarola is without a true beach, dozens of sun-worshippers plop themselves out on the hot, steep pavement near the grotto to soak up the rays. Chris and I dubbed it "walrus-ing".


Both men and women donned their teeniest bathing suits to display their tanned and toned physiques. No complaints!


As the sun set, the crowds began to thin, the walruses departed, and the town began to feel small and cut off from the modern world again. I made this last drawing inside the grotto, perched on a rock as I watched a group of girls swimming and jumping from the cliffs into the water below. What a magical place!

This post is part of a series of travel illustration from a three week tour of Italy. For more of Evan Turk's travel illustration, check out the link below: 

Italy: The Duomo of Florence


Florence, the capital of the Tuscany region, is almost more impressive than beautiful. While other cities, like Siena or Venice, are breathtaking in their elegance, the architecture of Florence feels somewhat austere and almost macho. Its crown jewel, the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore is jaw-droppingly massive. Adorned with Brunelleschi's incredible dome, it makes for a soaring spectacle.



One can easily imagine the overwhelming awe and fear that pilgrims centuries ago must have felt upon seeing a building of this grandeur. Even today, I couldn't stop exclaiming just how HUGE the cathedral feels. From certain angles, it appears more like an entire city than a single building.


Today's pilgrims help themselves to dozens of selfies, trying to fit the whole building into the frame.

  

It is an incredible feat of engineering. As you move around the building, the distances and angles are so immense that it feels like it moves along with you.

 

The locals seem to be a mix of refined, fashionable, artsy types, and faces that populated the paintings of the great Florentine Renaissance painters.


But as the sun begins to set, and the crowds of day trippers disperse, the light transforms the architecture and makes you understand the beauty that inspired the bravado of the city.

This post is part of a series of travel illustration from a three week tour of Italy. For more of Evan Turk's travel illustration, check out the link below: 
Evan Turk Travel Illustration

Italy: Tuscany


Ahh Tuscany! From Rome we drove north towards the Val D'Orcia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Tuscany region with rolling hills and regiments of spire-like cypresses punctuating the hillsides.


On the way to where we were staying, we planned to visit the town of Marta for a spring festival called La Barrabata. After a series of delays, we arrived in Marta just as the parade made it's last turn through the center of town. I drew frantically as the procession got swallowed up by the crowd following it. Only men marched in the parade, most with straw hats and plaid handkerchiefs, with floats displaying the fruits of their trades (fish, fruit, bread, cheese, vegetables, buffalo, sheaves of wheat). Women threw rose petals from the overlooking balconies as the crowds made their way up the hillside to the church.

With some help from an older local man, we made our way up to the church at the very top of the hill to find that the entire procession was now displayed for viewing behind the church. There were elaborate, flower-covered floats with tiny fountains, white buffalo, sheep, and hundreds of people celebrating. Just as I started to draw, the clouds that had been building emptied into a steady downpour. After trying to wait it out, we eventually joined the umbrella-ed masses descending the slope. I suppose when traveling you are always supposed to leave something undone, so there is a reason to come back! Next time!


It was rainy on and off for most of our stay, but that just made the landscapes more dramatic. We hadn't expected it to be so green and lush! It was amazing to see the dark thunderstorms roll over the towns and hills in the distance.


There is so much beauty, big and small. The roads are lined with tiny, delicate paper poppies and dramatic rows of cypresses.


We learned that some of the cypresses in the area date back to the 11th century when they were planted along the pilgrimage routes Via Roma and Via Francigena that led through the area between Canterbury and Rome. The trees were seen as pillars to the heavens because of their vertical nature. Many of the farmhouses sit on hilltops and were lookout posts to aid travelers as the route was often plagued by robbers and thieves.


Built by Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini, also known as Pope Pius II, Pienza was constructed in 1459 as the Piccolomini's idea of the ideal Renaissance town. After being there, it's not a stretch! It has gorgeous piazzi, palazzi, and narrow cobblestone streets. The air is full of the cooing of wood pigeons and clanging bells, and the smell of delicious pecorino toscano cheese.


The city is surrounded by a walled walkway with incredible panoramic views of the Val D'Orcia. Layer after layer of hills, cypresses, villas and towns that disappear and blend into the rolling storms.


In the center of the town is the beautiful duomo, a very early Renaissance cathedral. We were there on a Sunday, so locals from the region were out in full force along with the tourists to enjoy the beautiful day. There was even a woman playing the flute under the colonnade as I was making the drawing above.


It's always nice to be able to draw the locals when traveling. People's faces in Italy often feel like they came straight out of a Renaissance painting.


On one excursion, we visited a nearby natural hot spring, or acqu calda, named Fosso Bianco. After a short walk down the hill through the woods, you can smell the sulfurous mineral baths as you approach. Steaming mineral water pours down over the enormous, white calcium-covered terraces as people collect in the various pools to bask in the warmth.


On our last day, we left the Tuscany countryside for Florence, but made a stop in Siena, one of the most beautiful cities in the area. The medieval city boasts unique, rich architecture, the Piazza del Campo where the famous Palio horse race occurs (next time!), and a striking striped cathedral. After only a couple hours, it was onto Florence, but we will definitely be returning to Siena!

This post is part of a series of travel illustration from a three week tour of Italy. For more of Evan Turk's travel illustration, check out the link below: 

The Storyteller

 

I am so excited to announce that my debut as author/illustrator, 'The Storyteller', is now out in stores! Take a look at the trailer below:




Featuring music by NYC-based Moroccan gnawa ensemble Innov Gnawa.

It's been amazing to see the great reception so far! I hope you will check it out. There will be a book launch party at Books of Wonder on Thursday, June 30 from 6-8PM, so I hope you can come down and celebrate with me! There will be book signing, original art, a window display, and light refreshments. Check out the event here:


For more information about the book, its inspiration, teaching resources, and reviews, check out the website:

The Storyteller Website

Get your copy at:
Amazon | Indiebound | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble | Simon & Schuster
Or better yet, at your local independent bookstore! 

Italy: Rome



I just got back from a three week trip to Italy and am slowly adjusting to real life. What an amazing country with so much beauty packed into such a small place! We were surprised by how much we liked Rome, and were a little disappointed we had only booked two and a half days there. Hopefully we will be back! For an imperial city, it feels unexpectedly inviting. The Tiber River carves an elegant path crossed by grand bridges, and many of the ancient buildings are draped with jasmine that perfumes the whole city.


We sort of just wandered from place to place, admiring every street, statue, and piece of architecture, and smelling every flower. Not a bad way to spend a couple of days! We drew in the piazza near the Pantheon (above) as we were serenaded by a street performer singing opera.


Then we wandered to the Piazza Navona and admired Bernini's Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi or Fountain of the Four Rivers. The allegorical figures represent the four continents and their prominent. rivers: Africa's Nile, Europe's Danube, Asia's Ganges, and the Americas' Río de la Plata. This drawing is of the Ganges on the left, holding an oar representing its navigability, and the Nile on the right, with his head draped to show that people did not know the source of the river at that time.


We also visited the Castel Sant'Angelo which was a wonderful surprise. Between its construction in 134 AD and 1900, it served as a mausoleum, fortress, Papal residence, and a prison. This mishmash of uses created a very unique structure with layers and layers of history. It also has amazing views of the Tiber River and the whole city.


No visit to Rome would be complete without a stop at the Vatican and St. Peter's. I had gone to the Vatican Museum when I was a kid, and really only remembered the Sistine Chapel. Nothing could have prepared me for the exhaustion of the rest of the museum. You are moved in hordes through beautiful room after beautiful room as they slowly lessen the air conditioning to thin the herd before arriving at the Chapel. The ceiling is incredible and well worth it, but by that point you really need a nap.


After the Vatican, we went to St. Peter's Basilica, and its impressive, expansive plaza. Inside, the cathedral is wall to wall heavy stone, mosaic, and gilt. It is beautiful, but in an oppressive, heavy-handed way. (Also, they don't let you lean or sit against anything to draw...)


Outside, in the much airier, but equally overwhelming plaza, crowds of tourists exhausted after the Vatican Museum slumped against the endless colonnade.

What a beautiful city; I can't wait to return! But this time, it was on to Tuscany...

This post is part of a series of travel illustration from a three week tour of Italy. For more of Evan Turk's travel illustration, check out the link below: 
 

Morocco: The weaver as storyteller

I've been busily working on preparing for the release of my new book The Storyteller and have been neglecting my blog! But there are many new posts on The Storyteller website to read about the creation of the book and its art, as well as reviews, event announcements, and educational materials as the release gets closer (June 28!)

I'm so excited for everyone to finally see the book! It has been a long but rewarding process. And the book has been met with a wonderful reception so far! It has received a starred review from Kirkus Reviews and Publishers Weekly, as well as an amazingly thorough and thoughtful review from Betsy Bird at Fuse #8 over at School Library Journal. It is also a Fall 2016 Junior Library Guild selection. 

I am also very excited to announce that original artwork from The Storyteller, as well as some of these reportage drawings from Morocco and preparatory sketches, can be seen at the Brooklyn Public Library as a part of author/illustrator Pat Cummings' show "The Turn of the Page". Pat was one of my favorite teachers at Parsons, and is having a well-deserved residency at the Library. She has invited some of her former students who work in children's books to exhibit with her, and I am so honored to be included! I hope you'll come by and check it out! Opening reception the evening of May 9.

The post below is from The Storyteller website and features drawings from a research trip I took for the book in the fall of 2014. 





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In October 2014 I took a trip to Morocco to do research for The Storyteller. One of my favorite experiences was spending a day in the village of Anzal in southern Morocco and meeting the women carpet weavers there and their family. These drawings (aside from the illustrations from the book at the end) were done on-location in Anzal and the nearby Oasis de Fint.
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I arrived at the village of Anzal and met, Naoual, a twenty two year old woman from the village who translated for me and told me about her village and the weaving association. The village is nestled in a valley between harsh, dry mountains. The landscape is both empty and calming. The ground and sky seem to extend in all directions for eternity. It is said that the top crossbar of a loom is often called “the beam of heaven” and the bottom bar, “the earth”, with everything between as “creation.”
Naoual led me the short distance to the Association where I met Aicha, Fatima, and Rahma, Naoual’s mother-in-law. Aicha and Rahma were seated in front of their looms, made out of red steel I-beams and heavy wooden crossbars. A net of vertical yarns, the warp, stretched between the two crossbars in front of each weaver. Beside them were bags and cans of brightly colored, short pieces of yarn that would be knotted individually around each of the warp threads into a colorful design, the weft.

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Fatima sat nearby Aicha, taking tufts of wool and winding them into yarn on a spindle, whirring between her fingers.

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Aicha’s hands worked quickly, knotting each row, and then smacking the knots down with a comb called a taskaa, which resembled a big spider.

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Spiders are often associated with weavers, and their magical creative ability in forming webs. The act of weaving feels both magical and utilitarian. When you see a finished carpet, the staggering amount of work is both hidden behind the beauty, but also evident in each individual knot.
Patterns spread across the warp, slowly appearing as the weaver moves from side to side, row to row. Symbols, triangles, diamonds, zig-zags, and other shapes emerge. The symbols are infused with historic meaning, but also with the individual whims of the weavers.

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I watched as Rahma struggled in contemplation in the early stages of her weaving, trying to decide on a color and a direction. The dreaded “blank page syndrome” that plagues all artists at some point, manifests in the even more daunting “blank loom” which will be the home for her hands for the next many hours and days.

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Naoual showed me her family's sheep pen (who's wool is taken for the carpets), and led me to her own house for tea and lunch with her mother-in-law, Rahma, and Fatima, the spinner. I listened as they all spoke back in forth in Tamazigh, as Naoual tried to keep me up to speed on the conversation. We discussed the growing presence of Tamazigh people in the national conversation, as it became an official language in Morocco, in addition to Arabic. Over 80% of the population of Morocco has Tamazigh ancestry, but their language was not recognized until recently. New possibilities are growing as the diversity of the country is embraced.

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Naoual and her friend then took me on a small tour of the gardens behind the town. She showed me the water source, where Anzal’s water is filtered in from a nearby spring. The water descends from the spring into two divergent paths, towards the reservoir, or off towards the village. Trees line the cement channel made for the water. Twinkling olive trees baked in the sunlight, and shriveled pomegranates littered the ground with their seeds. The gentle breeze flowed through the valley, as if it had come from far off mountains, and the eternity of ground and sky. We talked about our lives, the differences and similarities, hopes and possibilities. As the sun began to set, we made our way back to the Association.

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We left the open valley and returned to the unadorned room with the weavers.

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A new weaver, Fatima, joined them with her carpet stretched on the loom. Undulating mountainous forms (or are they clouds?) overlap and emerge as she worked. The pattern grows, creating both ground and sky within the confines of her warp, but extending in all directions into infinity.

Sketch © Evan Turk

We then went to her mother’s house where I met her mother, brother, and sisters as we ate bread, honey, almonds, and ground dates, and laughed while sipping our hundredth cup of delicious mint tea.

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She took me to her aunt’s house where her cousins, aunt, and grandmother were doing household chores and weaving.

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Her grandmother, with high, bronze cheeks and a warm smile, cracked almonds from their trees out of their shells with a stone in the back. She laughed as she saw her portrait, saying she couldn’t wait to tell her son that today she met a man from America who said she looked like his own grandmother.

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The act of weaving is often related to that of speech, or storytelling. A tale is referred to as a “good yarn” and stories are “woven” in twists and turns. The words "text" and "textile" even come from the same Latin root, texare, which means "weaving." The looms serve as repositories for words and thoughts not necessarily spoken. Patterns and symbols come together across the landscapes of the carpets, often with stories of pregnancies, births, deaths, and weddings. Like scrapbooks, created over months, the knots are woven in time as life events unfold. Older carpets seem to have been formed organically, with no plan in mind. There is just the warp to hold it together, and life to fill in the spaces as it comes.

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In the ebb and flow,
In warp and weft,
Cradle and grave,
An eternal sea,
A changing patchwork,
A glowing life,
At the whirring loom of Time I weave
The living clothes of the deity.

Goethe, Faust

For more of Evan Turk's travel illustration, check out the link below: 
Evan Turk Travel Illustration

Chicago Blues


The blues research continues! I am working on the illustrations for an upcoming book called Muddy by Michael Mahin, which tells the story of blues musician Muddy Waters. After traveling to Mississippi in the fall to learn about Muddy's roots, it was time to go to Chicago to see where he became a musical legend. The blues community that Muddy helped develop in Chicago is still active and thriving. It was interesting to feel how Chicago's blues retain the same feeling of the Mississippi Delta, though the settings couldn't be farther apart.


My first stop was Blue Chicago to hear the Tenry Johns Band featuring Claudette Miller. Like Muddy Waters, Tenry Johns is originally from a small town in Mississippi, and you can feel the country blues in his playing. He and his band were high energy, light-hearted, and charismatic from beginning to end.


It's always interesting to try and see the different personalities of the different instruments and roles in a band. Tenry, the front man, was all smiles and laughing (upper right). The other two guitarists were quieter and focused.


 

From my vantage point, all I could see of the drummer was his head poking up over the cymbals.

 

Later in the evening they were joined by the wonderful Claudette Miller, whose smokey voice was both sultry and playful. She was kind enough to chat with me for a little while after her set, and gave me the names of more great blues artists I should know. The blues community here is very tight-knit and passionate.


Their energy was infectious and got the crowd off their seats and dancing.


The next day I went to visit the former site of Chess (Aristocrat) Records, the studio where many of the greats, including Muddy Waters, recorded their hits. The building is now the site of the Willie Dixon Blues Heaven Foundation started in honor of Willie Dixon, the musician and songwriter behind many of the biggest blues hits of the 50's and 60's ("Hoochie Coochie Man," "I Just Want To Make Love To You," "My Babe").  The Foundation now seeks to preserve the history of the blues in Chicago, while encouraging and educating young musicians about the business. The Dixon family still runs the foundation—Dixon's knowledgeable and friendly grandson, Keith, volunteers and offers tours—and awards scholarships to students in Chicago. The studio has also become a mecca for musicians such as the Rolling Stones and Steven Tyler to come and soak up the residual blues energy.


That night I went to go see the Mike Wheeler Band at Kingston Mines. These guys electrified the stage, and really gave their all. You could feel the passion in their playing.


The band was then joined by the amazing Peaches Staten who added her intensity and powerful, growling vocals.


At one point, she did a rubboard solo where she strummed and scraped across the metal ridges of the board for rhythm, all while singing and dancing on stage. She was a powerhouse!


So much intensity on one stage!


After her set, Peaches went onto the dance floor and got the rest of the crowd moving and shaking.


The next day it was all about Buddy Guy's Legends club. Among his many accolades, Buddy Guy is the recipient of six Grammys and the National Medal of Arts. Early on in his career in the 60's, he played alongside Muddy Waters. Now, at the age of 79, and with the recent passing of B.B. King, he is one of the last torchbearers of this generation of blues. Needless to say, he has quite a few fans. So to make sure I had a good spot, I had to get to his club eight hours early (and tables were already filling up by that point). Fortunately, there were some fantastic acts throughout the day. I arrived in the middle of Eddie Taylor Jr.'s set. Son of Chicago bluesman Eddie Taylor, he carries on his father's trade.


His sound was less electrified rock, more country blues, and reminded me of Muddy's Folk Singer album. His singing and playing are subtle, strong, and sensitive.


When his set was over, there was a few hours before the next performer, so I passed the time drawing the crowd ordering more and more drinks as they waited.

Next up was Nicholas Barron with an unusual, percussive singing style combined with a deep, gravelly, soulful voice.



A visual artist as well, his guitar was covered with beautiful swirling patterns.


His second set that he played a bit later was even more powerful, where he really let loose and let his voice fly.


Then it was time for the opening act, Vino Louden. This guy was, straight out of the gate, so full of energy it was hard to keep up. He commanded the stage with an unbridled, sensual electricity.


Louden was a guitarist for the late blues singer Koko Taylor, and at one point in the show he told of how he and the rest of her band were in a terrible car accident. Louden was the worst off, with a severely broken pelvis, life-support, and two heart attacks. But through a painful rehabilitation, he relearned how to move his body, and regained his life. He sang a moving and plaintive rendition of Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come".


Maybe it's because of that hard-won and fought-for life that his performance was so full of vitality. You could tell he was feeling every single note he played.

His keyboardist, too, had some particularly jaw-dropping solos.


Absolutely blown away by Vino and his band, I couldn't wait for what was coming next.


To a roaring cheer, Buddy Guy entered the stage in a red and black polka dot shirt. Polka dots are Buddy's trademark. With his parent's encouragement, he left Louisiana for Chicago, and promised his ill mother that he would buy her a polka dot Cadillac one day. But she passed away without ever getting to see him play, so he wears the polka dots as a reminder of his promise to her.


At 79, he is somewhat unassuming. But once he starts to speak, or sing, or play, he grows 10 feet in a second.


I loved watching his face as he sang, spoke, and played, shifting from one second to the next from intense focus, to a wry, curled grin, to a state of spiritual ecstasy.


What struck me the most about watching him perform, was that drawing his actual presence on stage almost became beside the point. He was so in tune and skillful with the guitar and the joyful theatrics of his playing, that he dissolved away, and all that was left was this screaming, howling intensity of sound. His voice, from gentle, pained weariness to primal screams, melted into bare emotion.


Near the end of the show, he went on a tour of the bar, disappearing into the crowd except for flashes of red and polka dots. But as he literally disappeared behind his throngs of adoring fans, his sound filled the room, like he was in every single corner at once.


Before Buddy came out, the MC told the audience how this club, and this performance were the result of a promise. Buddy, Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Bryan Lee, and Junior Wells promised each other that they would do their best to keep the blues alive. With his unparalleled intensity, skill, and passion, Buddy Guy is doing just that.


The promise, though, reminded me of my last stop in Chicago: Muddy Waters' house on the West Side. The house now sits abandoned, marked with a red X to show that it is not structurally sound. The windows are boarded up. As I drew outside, crouched near a lamppost as it started to snow, many neighborhood kids came by and asked why I was drawing the house. I told them about Muddy Waters, and pointed them to the weathered Blues Trail sign behind me talking about his history. The house has been saved from demolition, and many have talked about turning the house into a Blues museum. But none so far have been successful, and its future remains uncertain. The history of the blues is integral to the history of not just American music, but America itself. Whether through Buddy's club, Muddy's house, or Willie Dixon's foundation, it is important that we keep this history alive to educate future generations.

For more of Evan Turk's travel illustration, check out the link below: 

Heartbeat

I am very proud to be a part of the new Dalvero Academy exhibition Journey of Transformation that just opened at Mystic Seaport this past weekend. This exhibit is a follow up to our previous show at the Seaport a few years ago, and is focused around the 38th Voyage of the Charles W. Morgan, the last wooden whaleship in the world, and it's new message of education and conservation. There is incredible and inspiring work by 29 artists, and I am honored to be one of them!

Part of my contribution to the show is an animation called "Heartbeat". This animated short follows the life of a baby whale whose mother is killed during the heyday of American whaling in the 19th century. It continues through our destructive relationship with whales over the decades, using the bodies of whales for everything from illuminants, to industrial lubricant, to food. As our perceptions of whales, and our relationship with them changes, a new song of empathy and compassion is formed to sail forward into a more hopeful future.

You can view the animation below:


I hope you will go and check out the show if you are in the area!

I was fortunate enough to be on the Morgan's 38th Voyage last summer (you can read about my experience here). The wonderful composer for this animation was a fellow 38th Voyager, Gary Wikfors. He composed and performed all the music for this piece using an octaveharpa, nyckelharpa, tenor mandola, octave mandola, mandocello, and mandolin. What an experience it was working with a real composer! I couldn't be more grateful for his dedication and beautiful work.